Miss Moneypenny Saves the Day

20 Jul

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It was storming when I went to sleep, so my cat, Miss Moneypenny, was a bit out of sorts. A few hours later, she woke me, running across the bed. Thinking she was making a play for mid-night attention, I tried to tip her over and make her snuggle – a move she usually goes with. This time, however, I was met with fierce resistance.

She was sitting near my head, and I could feel the twitch of her tail whipping my face. I nudged her, thinking she’d jump off the bed. No luck. Instead, she made a weird little chirping noise that I’ve only ever heard when she sees a bird out my window.

I turned on the light so I could assess the situation. It was 1am and she was staring fixedly at my bedroom curtains. I followed her gaze and spotted it: high on the curtain rod, her grey toy mouse.

“Miss Moneypenny,” I said. “You just now decided you needed to play with your mousie?” I stood on my bed so I could get high enough to knock it down – and then realized it was NOT her toy mouse. It was a real one, with huge ears and frightened eyes.

What was a mouse doing IN MY HOME? And how did it get up on top of a curtain rod, 8-feet in the air – at 1am?!

Miss Moneypenny was riveted. I considered knocking the mouse down so she could play with it, but decided: a) That would be cruel to the mouse, and b) There was a strong possibility I would lose sight of the mouse.

Decision made, I got an empty trash can and slid it up under the mouse. The mouse must have been wondering how it was going to get down from its high perch, because it (literally) jumped at the opportunity I’d presented. I slid a notebook over the top of the trashcan to makes sure I only had to do this ONCE. Dressed in my hot pink plaid pajamas – I slid my flipflops on and headed out to the DC street to release it.

Job done, when I came back to my bedroom, Miss Moneypenny was in the same spot, tail twitching, pacing to get a better view of a now non-existent mouse. Her obsession alarmed me – was there ANOTHER mouse I hadn’t found? Fortunately not, because after 45 minutes, she finally relaxed and we were both able to go back to sleep.

Who knew I had a mouse(r) in the house? She just covered her rent check for the next year.

 

Just stretching my voice…

3 Jul

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The other week, Alan and I were driving home from somewhere when I started to yawn, then – because it felt good – made some sort of gurgling noise with my throat. When I finished, Alan was looking wildly around the car.

“What the hell was that?” He looked panicked.

“My yawn?” I asked.

He turned to look at me. “That was YOU?”

I nodded. “I was stretching my voice.”

“You were doing what?” he asked.

“I don’t know – stretching my voice. It felt good.”

“It sounded like a mechanical noise,” he still looked dubious. “I thought something was wrong with my car.”

“Nope, just me.” I smiled. “Did I sound like Chewbacca? Because I kind of felt like there were a few different pitches coming out.”

He just shook his head and continued driving.

I tried to recreate the noise.

“Please stop,” he said, his eyes on the road.

I obliged, but continued to silently contort my mouth, thinking about how I might be able to make that sound on command.

Alan raised his eyebrows and cast a sideways glance at me. “Seriously?”

“You need to be more supportive of my hobbies.”

Long silence.

“Are you trying to tell me that ‘stretching your voice’ is a hobby?”

“Yes.”

“Since when?”

“Since I just discovered it.”

I don’t know how Alan can drive straight when shaking his head that hard.

Lost in Translation?

29 Jun

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I was at a coaching workshop two weeks ago taught by two Harvard professors up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The goal was for participants to learn how to facilitate sessions using the material themselves, so the teachers would alternate between treating us as regular audience members experiencing the material for the first time and then as facilitators, learning how to use the material with other people.

As you’ve probably gathered, it can be confusing to try two different approaches to the material, so to simplify things, they asked us to pretend we were somewhere else (San Diego) when we were going through the program simply as learners, and then would ask us to, “Come back to Cambridge,” when they wanted to address us as teachers-in-training.

Our first day, we toggled between “San Diego” and “Cambridge” regularly. I found it to be a clever way to shift gears easily and know which role I was playing (student or teacher) during the program.

At the end of that first day, we were broken up into small groups to prepare our own presentations. While we were doing this, the instructor called out, “Think about what you experienced when you were in San Diego – that will help you with this!”

A woman from my group leaned over and said – in full seriousness, “Can you explain this whole San Diego thing to me? This seems like a smart group of people – how are they tricking themselves into believing that THIS is San Diego?”

I have no idea.

Just a typical lunch conversation

10 Jun

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“Hey, do you want to see four dead mice and a dead chipmunk?” my dad asks while we’re eating lunch. I’ve just arrived in Michigan for my nephew’s graduation.

“Where are they?” I ask, thinking they’ve just been caught in a trap. “Attic? Garage?”

“Basement,” my mom says, with a roll of her eyes.

“Why do you have these in the basement?” I ask.

“I’m cultivating dermestid beetles,” my dad announces proudly.

“And why are you cultivating dermestid beetles?”

“So I’ll have enough to clean the deer skeleton I picked up,” he replies, as if it should’ve been obvious.

“And where is this deer skeleton?”

He stops eating and points at the floor.

“Under the porch?” I ask, now imagining a rotting carcass as I put a fork full of sauerkraut in my mouth.

He nods.

“Did you get the whole thing?” my mom asks, surprisingly supportive for someone who prides herself on an immaculate house.

“Close,” he says. “I was able to pick up almost everything but I think I missed a few ribs.”

There are a number of relevant questions… Where did he find this skeleton? What does he plan to do with it? Exactly how did he pick it up? How long has it been under the porch?

Instead, I settle on, “Isn’t it stinky?” since I’m now sniffing around like a pig seeking truffles.

“Nah,” he says. “The maggots did a pretty good job with it. The beetles are just to finish the job so it’s perfectly clean.”

Of course.

Isn’t this how YOUR visits home sound – or is your dad not a biologist?

Going, going – almost gone!

5 May

 

 

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My parents visited from Michigan back in March. I’d been itching to visit the Renwick Gallery since it reopened in November, and my parents were game to check it out.

If you’re not familiar with the Renwick, here’s the quick back-story on it:

  • It is part of the Smithsonian. (And because I answer this question for almost every visitor to Washington: the Smithsonian is a collection of museums and galleries – not a single destination – and they are all open free of charge to the public.)
  • The Renwick was the first art gallery built in the US intended to be used as an art gallery. (A lot of the other older art galleries were originally private homes.)
  • The exterior was completed in 1861 – and then the construction was paused because of the Civil War.
  • In the 20th century, there was talk of tearing it down, but Jacqueline Kennedy led a successful crusade to save it, and it returned to use as an art gallery in 1972.
  • It closed again for renovations in 2013 and just reopened in November.

To re-open the Renwick, the entire building was used for an installation of nine works by different artists, each specifically designed for and filling an entire room. The theme of the exhibit was, “Wonder” and I have to say: Mission Accomplished. I can’t imagine anyone going through the entire exhibit without at least one, “WHOA!” moment.

Here’s the exhibit’s opening plaque, which provides a bit of context for what it contains:

People have debated the meaning and value of wonder for more than two thousand years. It has been described as everything from the origins of our understanding of the universe, to how we respond to something defying categorization, to a naïve emotion delaying us from reason, to a shock to the heart, and a surprise of the soul.

The two rooms that provided me with the most amazement were those where common items were used to create very uncommon results.

The first example was Jennifer Angus’s pink-washed room that used insects for three-dimensional wall decoration. When we walked in the room, our initial reaction was, “Cool,” as we saw the “dia de los muertos” skeletons covering the walls. We quickly followed that by asking, “Those can’t be REAL beetles, can they?”

As it turns out, they WERE. Which then made the whole room a bit more creepy. And I felt compelled to try to approximate how many little insect corpses were pinned to the walls. It made my head hurt. Further, the wall plaque informed us that the pink of the walls was created by using the “juice” from other insects. Ew? And still – ahhhh!

Here are a few photos I snapped that don’t do it justice:

The other example that had me rubbing my chin in wonder was what appeared to be a simple construction of colored thread – pinned to the floor, then running to the ceiling, where it was pinned at a right angle. Sounds boring, but the effect was surprising. As we moved around it, it shifted from being individual clusters of thread to a see-through rainbow that seemed to be made from light.

Again, it doesn’t translate well in photos, but here’s an attempt – and no, I have no idea who that dude is posing in this shot:

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Those were the two creations that I found most provoking, but I heard people exclaiming in delight in every room, whether it was John Grade’s over-sized tree trunk constructed from small blocks of wood, or the glass ball formation created by Maya Lin (of Vietnam Wall fame), that climbed the walls of one room.

In addition to the art work, there were quotes in each room related to the theme. A few of my favorite examples include:

“It is not understanding that destroys wonder, it is familiarity.” —John Stuart Mill

“The mere knowledge that such a work could be created makes me twice the person I was.” —Goethe

The full exhibit is only available through Sunday (May 8), so if you’re in the DC area, if you hustle you can hit it! Even if you’re not usually a fan of art, I’d be willing to offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee. (Did I mention that it’s free?!)

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